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Momma, what happened to the neighborhood?

One of the constant themes that Home Depot commercials hit on is the idea of building the ultimate backyard. Have you seen these ones? A family turns their typical rear plot of land into a haven full of Trex decking, bright flowers and fresh sod, with a gleaming stainless steel grill to bring it all together. The concept is to create a space to relax—a refuge from the rest of the world and a post-5pm retreat after a tiring day.

I’ll admit that these ads strike me in two ways. One, I want that backyard. But Two, on a deeper level I wonder if there is something here for us to consider. Has our society become used to a world where we spend the bulk of our time confined to our parcel lines while having little meaningful interaction with our neighbors?

There used to be a day and time in our society where kids played outside more often, where families knew and relied upon households next door, and where it was a norm to feel a sense of connectedness amongst neighbors. In thinking back to when you were a kid, did life in your neighborhood seem a bit more interactive and relational than your experience today? Did people trust each other more readily? Did passersby wave? Did you play outside without worrying about Megan’s Law registrants?

Let’s face it, after the commute home from work it’s easy to find ourselves so tired and busy that the concept of getting to know our neighbors seems unrealistic, impractical or even inconvenient. So we get home from work, shut the garage door quickly to avoid others, stay behind our fences, and then turn on one of our screens to zone out. Sure, privacy is essential to a healthy lifestyle, but if life’s standard posture is to have very limited interaction with neighbors, then our communities will suffer.

What happened to our neighborhoods?

Part II: Finding Treasure in the Front Yard

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